The foraging thread - No such thing as a free lunch?

Hongourable Madisha

Happy Hongukkah
kiwifarms.net
Thought I'd start a thread since autumn's here. There's a lot of wild food you can collect year round, but right now there's lots of easily identifiable fruits and nuts and mushrooms around, so now's a good time to get into foraging!

The laws:
In most jurisdictions there are a lot of laws covering foraging, fishing, hunting and poaching - many of them are there to look after the environment, and there are often different rules covering national parks, estates, and sites of special scientific interest, so be sure to look up your local laws and rules cover the area you're visiting before you go.
I'm in the UK and haven't really foraged anywhere else, so a lot of my advice here will be UK-specific, and you should check what rules apply to you. The Countryside Act allows you to take "the 4 Fs", fruit, flowers, foliage and fungi, from common land, but check if there are other restrictions in each local area before you go, so you don't damage the environment or get a fine.
As a general rule: don't take from sites of special scientific interest, don't take wild birds' eggs, don't dig up any plants, and don't take the piss and completely strip an area, leave some for other foragers, for the local wildlife to eat and for the plants to seed for next year.

Hunting and fishing have more laws covering them, but I don't do those so I'll leave that up to other Kiwis who know more.
See the Hunting thread: https://kiwifarms.net/threads/hunting-season.24166/
And the Fishing thread: https://kiwifarms.net/threads/the-fishing-thread.52643/

Identifying plants:
Next, know what you're picking. Don't eat anything you're not certain you can identify. I've got pretty good at identifying fruits, nuts, flowers and leaves now but there's still some I don't know, I still don't trust myself to identify any fungi yet, so I leave those for people who know them better.
There are lots of edible plants that are quite well known and easy to recognise: dandelions, blackberries and raspberries, sweet chestnuts, hazelnuts, apples, elderflowers (and later, elderberries) that if you know, you can harvest straight away. In the British Isles there's only one species of poisonous seaweed (desmarestia), so if you can recognise that and avoid it, then you can harvest and eat whatever seaweed you like.

There's also a lot of sites and apps to identify plants, where you can photograph the plant and it'll give suggestions. I use Plantnet (Android/iOS) and Google Lens for that. Once they give me a couple of suggestions for plant names, I search for information on them and see if there's any other characteristics I can use to tell the difference, such as where they grow - some mushrooms tend to grow on certain trees, so that can help narrow it down if you know what tree it's on - or what they smell like. For example, wild garlic looks a lot like poisonous lily-of-the-valley, but they both smell very strong and totally different.

If you're going somewhere without a phone signal, you could get a guide book on plants to take with you instead (or as well as your phone). If you get one, make sure you get one specific to your local area since you'll get different species growing in different places.
Though it's quite common to find foreign, domestic cultivars that have escaped from gardens or farms, or councils planting foreign fruit trees for ornamental value. My local council plants rose bushes, and sour cherry trees, rowan berries (mountain ash) and crabapples which are too sour to eat raw, but can be cooked into all sorts of different recipes.
Or by roadsides where people have thrown an apple core out of their car window or dumped rubbish from a picnic and it's grown into a tree, so it's worth being aware of those too. I found this gooseberry bush growing by the road by itself, it didn't look wild or natural at all, but it was there for harvesting.
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Other safety tips:
Your food will be healthier (and taste better) if you're harvesting from somewhere with decent air and water quality. If you're harvesting seaweed or catching shellfish, don't do it next to a sewer outlet or some nasty beach with industrial runoff and condoms and shit floating in the sea. In a lot of countries, the cleanest beaches get a Blue Flag award and are generally safe and clean for foraging. Be especially careful with shellfish because they're filter feeders, they will absorb all the shit in the water (which helps keep the water clean but it's not safe to eat them!)
For air quality, a lot of cities will have records of air pollution in local areas, or if you're in the countryside, look for lichens and mosses - they only grow where the air is clean.
You can harvest from near roads, but I'd recommend you give your harvest a good wash and soak in water, or even blanch it for a bit. If it has a sort of blue-grey dust on it from car exhaust fumes, wash it off thoroughly.
Here are some sloes I found near a roadside with that dust on, you can see the dust in this picture (though sloes look a bit like that anyway). I soaked and rinsed them in cold water a few times and they were fine, made a very nice jelly to eat with meats or cook in casseroles.
1599677142379.png
Wash everything you collect anyway, especially low growing plants that may have had animals pissing on them or trampling them, horses and dogs especially can spread campylobacter which will give you food poisoning. It's nice to pick and eat plants straight off the tree but only do that if they're growing high enough that they won't be dirty.

What to bring:
  • Containers to collect the food. I usually take a rucksack with a few plastic food bags or plastic tubs to keep different things separate: recently I've been harvesting apples, brambles and elderberries and I like to keep them separate because the apples are bigger and roll about and squash the berries in my bag, anything soft and squashable goes in a rigid tub or in a separate bag on top of everything else.
  • Scissors, secateurs or knife. Some berries that grow in clusters, like rowanberries or elderberries, aren't as easy to harvest by hand without crushing them or damaging the tree, so it's easier to just make nice clean cuts to take a whole bunch off at a time. Then when you get them home, you can pick them off the bunch and throw the stalks away. Same with collecting some leaves.
    Also if you're collecting sap, you should use your knife or scissor blade to cut and shave a piece of wood from the same tree into a plug so you don't leave the tapping site open on it.
  • Thick gloves, or gardening gloves. Lots of plants have natural defences like stinging nettles, brambles, roses, sloes, gooseberries, or they can grow in the way of what you want to harvest, and you can miss a lot if you don't have a way to pick them or move them aside.
  • Identification guide book, or just your phone if you have some plant identification apps installed and can get internet access where you are. Phone or camera is useful anyway to take pictures of what you find (and where you find it growing) so you can identify it later.
More resources:
Ray Mears, the man, the legend. Basically Bear Grylls but not a tryhard prick and actually teaches you some useful skills. Here's his Wild Britain show, especially useful for fellow Britbongs but he goes all over the place and is very big on showing and preserving traditional crafts and skills, so he visits people and learns and promotes their local knowledge of the plant life.
The Woodland Trust, they run several nature preserves around the UK and have lots of advice about foraging. They have an app that can help you identify British trees but it's only got about 75 tree species in it and isn't as good as Plantnet.
Wild Food UK, a group promoting foraging. They have a YouTube channel where a guy shows you different wild plants, which can be easier get an idea of what you're looking at than still photos, if you think you've found something then comparing it to the video helps.
Fergus the Forager, I mentioned him in the Witchblr thread, he's a bit out there with his pagan folk traditions and things, but he knows a lot about wild plants and just wants to pass it on.
Li Ziqi, a farmer/YouTube personality who lives on a mountain in Sichuan, she often harvests wild plants and shows you how to find and prepare them.
Dianxi Xiaoge, similar deal to Li Ziqi but in Yunnan and has a brilliant fluffy dog that she taught to hunt for mushrooms.
BBC Good Food foraging guide, has more links and recipes for things to make with foraged plants.
Foragers Folly, site with lots of recipes for foraged plants.
Forager|Chef, seems to be based in America so may be better for yanks, also shows some cooking and butchery techniques for wild game.
River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his friends' smallholding, where they show cooking and farming and a lot of foraging and preserving seasonal food.
WebMD interaction checker: some plants can interact with medication, so this is useful for checking.
 
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break these cuffs

W A O
kiwifarms.net
Don't forage for mushrooms if you're reading this thread to learn how. You don't know what you're doing. The edible mushrooms in your area may have one or more mushrooms that closely mimic it that could make you sick or kill you. Acadia up here is a big spot, especially for international tourists, to forage for mushrooms and take a trip to the hospital. The idiots also tend to eat the fiddleheads despite the edible species not being found there.

I personally think that foraging should be taught by someone with experience if you're going to go beyond the obvious the obvious berries and fruits. They will be able to show you the places they've left behind as they discover more bountiful areas and teach you the ins and out of your local ecology. It will also get you involved in a community instead of staring at your phone all day. Don't expect them to show you the good spots. They likely had to find them on your own.
 

OfficerBagget

Supreme Jerkop
kiwifarms.net
Don't forage for mushrooms if you're reading this thread to learn how. You don't know what you're doing. The edible mushrooms in your area may have one or more mushrooms that closely mimic it that could make you sick or kill you. Acadia up here is a big spot, especially for international tourists, to forage for mushrooms and take a trip to the hospital. The idiots also tend to eat the fiddleheads despite the edible species not being found there.
I remember hearing someone say. That they dont trust eating foraged food especially mushrooms unless they've been on site with an expert and saw the expert eat it. .
 

Hongourable Madisha

Happy Hongukkah
kiwifarms.net
Yeah, with mushrooms I would take them to an expert because for just about every edible kind, there's a very similar-looking one that will kill you. Some university mycology departments will identify them for you (and may ask about where you found them so remember and take pictures) and some rangers will help, but you're safest if you know what you're doing. I've been foraging for years and still wouldn't touch mushrooms, safety has to come first.

eta: getting involved in foraging in your local community is definitely a good idea, recognising the plants year round helps you identify what's in your area too. If you see the same plants in flower and what colour their leaves turn, you'll have a better idea of what they are when they eventually fruit. If you know what may blossom and blackthorn looks like in the spring, and remember where you saw them, you now know where hawthorns and sloes will be in the autumn. And some plants, like rose or elder, can be used at different times of the year, both the flowers and fruit are edible.
It also helps you trade and offload your harvest if other people are involved, I picked a lot of raspberries this summer and froze them, and traded a box of them for some elderflower lemonade my neighbours had made from their haul, so you get a good mixture of things. As long as you're sure they know what they're picking too and have had some of it themselves and survived, of course!
 
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MrTroll

I know you can read MY thoughts, boy
kiwifarms.net
Some university mycology departments will identify them for you (and may ask about where you found them so remember and take pictures) and some rangers will help
Yeah like I'd trust commie jew academics about something that might kill me. They'd probably say that a poisonous mushroom is perfectly safe just to rid the world of another cisgender hetero white man.
 

Yuna-Bomber

kiwifarms.net
Certain mushrooms are very easy to learn to pick yourself. If you stick to 4 or so that are distinctive and don't have any poisonous lookalikes. Chicken of the woods, giant puffballs, hen of the woods are really easy to start. Then morels and chanterelles.

Truth is there are only a couple of deadly poisonous mushrooms out there. For more advanced picking, find a mentor in your area.

It's the same as home canning. People are unduly afraid of it but you're just as likely to poison yourself eating food from a restaurant or canned goods from the grocery store.
 

Documenter

Never thirsty, ever drinking.
kiwifarms.net
hugh fearnley-whittingstall apart from being a flower hugging hippie has made quite a bit of content on foraging. I started paying attention to what's edible around me after his cook on the wild side series.
Most plants are pretty safe after some research, for mushrooms you really need a local guide.
About poaching... Don't overdo it, but it's nice to have the practice/option just in case. Hell I've had some lean times in college, was nice if I was able to get some "free" protein on the table.
 
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Hongourable Madisha

Happy Hongukkah
kiwifarms.net
Certain mushrooms are very easy to learn to pick yourself. If you stick to 4 or so that are distinctive and don't have any poisonous lookalikes. Chicken of the woods, giant puffballs, hen of the woods are really easy to start. Then morels and chanterelles.

Truth is there are only a couple of deadly poisonous mushrooms out there. For more advanced picking, find a mentor in your area.

It's the same as home canning. People are unduly afraid of it but you're just as likely to poison yourself eating food from a restaurant or canned goods from the grocery store.
Cool, I didn't know you could eat puffballs! When I was a kid we used to jump on them to watch the spores burst out. Anything I can find on them suggests not to eat them once the spores form, so it's good to know I wasn't wasting food.

hugh fearnley-whittingstall apart from being a flower hugging hippie has made quite a bit of content on foraging. I started paying attention to what's edible around me after his cook on the wild side series.
Most plants are pretty safe after some research, for mushrooms you really need a local guide.
About poaching... Don't overdo it, but it's nice to have the practice/option just in case. Hell I've had some lean times in college, was nice if I was able to get some "free" protein on the table.
Yeah, he's a bit annoying sometimes but his content is really good. River Cottage has a YouTube channel too, him and his friends. John the forager and Pam "The Jam" have good advice and recipes for harvesting and preserving food: https://www.youtube.com/user/webteamrivercottage
I got into foraging properly when I was in college too, I used to pick blackberries when I was a kid but there was a lot of forests around my alma mater that were really good for foraging - I used to make wild garlic soup, and get a cheap frozen pizza from the supermarket and put dandelion and garlic mustard leaves with it to make a salad that tasted a lot like rocket. Very useful when it was the middle of the recession and there were no part-time jobs for students, and I was time rich and cash poor. With poaching and scrumping (taking plants from other people's property) make sure you respect the laws on the environment, if not the property ones, some species and areas are protected for a reason.

Generally I've found people are happy for me to harvest from their gardens if I ask them first. If they have a big glut of produce they're often happy to have someone take some of the excess away - round here, before lockdown, they'd usually put extra in a box out on the street with a sign telling people what it was and to take some, so if you come to collect some, it saves them the effort of picking it all in the first place. And if you've got a glut of something else, you can offer to trade it with them. Some people don't know which of their ornamental plants are edible, and will sometimes cut some for you if you let them know. Just be polite and be prepared they might say "no", it's still their food after all, usually just if I see someone's out in their garden and I notice an edible plant, I admire their garden and we get talking about it. Or if there's a plant growing out through their fence and has dropped windfalls onto the public way, I'll collect those but not trespass into their garden.
 
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MerriedxReldnahc

World's Okay-est Proctologist
True & Honest Fan
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I'd love to do some foraging, but my area isn't *super* great for it. Dandelions are super good for you and they'll grow anywhere. You just have to be careful that you're not foraging from a place that has been sprayed with herbicides, and also the further along dandelions get in their growth the more bitter the leaves get. Younger leaves are milder.

There's a path that I take several times a week that has a massive tangle of blackberry bushes on the roadside. Very rarely do I ever find berries, but I have on good authority that there are some good berry hunting spots the next town over. Other things I've noticed in a few places are anise, and borrage which grows like mad in my backyard. Speaking of things growing like mad, nasturtiums are all over the place in my area. Both the petals and leaves are edible.
I'm right by the beach so harvesting seaweed would be an interesting option. I wouldn't try to forage for mushrooms, I don't trust my ability to properly identify something that won't kill me.
 

Hongourable Madisha

Happy Hongukkah
kiwifarms.net
I'd love to do some foraging, but my area isn't *super* great for it. Dandelions are super good for you and they'll grow anywhere. You just have to be careful that you're not foraging from a place that has been sprayed with herbicides, and also the further along dandelions get in their growth the more bitter the leaves get. Younger leaves are milder.

There's a path that I take several times a week that has a massive tangle of blackberry bushes on the roadside. Very rarely do I ever find berries, but I have on good authority that there are some good berry hunting spots the next town over. Other things I've noticed in a few places are anise, and borrage which grows like mad in my backyard. Speaking of things growing like mad, nasturtiums are all over the place in my area. Both the petals and leaves are edible.
I'm right by the beach so harvesting seaweed would be an interesting option. I wouldn't try to forage for mushrooms, I don't trust my ability to properly identify something that won't kill me.
As a rule, younger leaves are better for most plants to avoid the bitterness, and so they're not too tough. Dandelions, garlic mustard, and nettles especially. Nettles are very healthy unless they're flowering and you mustn't eat older leaves, because that's when they start developing calcium crystals that aren't good for you. At least, so I'm told, it might be bullshit but I haven't risked it. The young leaves are nice and there's lots of them anyway! You can use them in pretty much any recipe where you'd use spinach, just cook or dry them to get rid of their sting.
 
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Yuna-Bomber

kiwifarms.net
Cool, I didn't know you could eat puffballs! When I was a kid we used to jump on them to watch the spores burst out. Anything I can find on them suggests not to eat them once the spores form, so it's good to know I wasn't wasting food.
That is correct, you want to be able to slice the flesh and see pure white, they turn a greenish color and the flesh becomes porous when they're starting to spore. You can slice, bread and fry them, or you can use them like tofu.

I recommend Learn Your Land to get started mushroom hunting. Much of his content is specific to the northeast USA but it's still helpful.

To know mushrooms beyond the basic edibles you must know trees, so a tree ID guide catered to your region is indispensable.

A mushroom guide specific to your region is indispensable too, many mushrooms look very similar across continents but are in fact different species. This can lead to poisonings for example when immigrants come to the US and think they are picking the same mushroom they picked in russia or in asia.

Finally, many regions in the US have a mycology club that goes on mushroom walks, if there's one in your area you might be able to join them!

Happy hunting!
 

Hongourable Madisha

Happy Hongukkah
kiwifarms.net
I know foraging is about food, but the only thing I regularly collect from the 'wild' are tons of horse chestnuts to use as laundry detergent. I haven't spent money on normal laundry detergent in years.
I didn't know they could do that, nice! Round here kids collect them as toys to play conkers: you drill a hole in them and put a string through, then kids swing them to hit other kids' conkers and whichever conker shatters first is the loser. Schools banned them for a while in the '90s because the broken bits of conker flying off the string could be dangerous, but I think these days parents and grandparents, and groups like Scouts that teach kids about the outdoors, are keeping the tradition going.
I was on holiday in Germany once and saw lots of horse chestnuts, some of the tourists didn't know what they were and we got chatting to the guide and mentioned conkers. Apparently German kids are much less destructive than British kids, they use them to play marbles and like building blocks, they stick them together with twigs and make things.

eta: Invasive species. Something I didn't mention in the OP, I talked a bit about the laws and guidelines on what and how much to harvest, and to leave some so they'll grow back next year. In most countries there are some species where this specifically doesn't apply, because they are damaging the local ecosystem. In the UK, two that come to mind are salmonberry (an American plant a bit like raspberry) and signal crayfish (a sort of crayfish that was introduced into British waterways and is now overpopulated and harming the indigenous crayfish species).
Look up invasive species in your local area, and you may find rules explicitly telling you to take as much of them as you like. You may even find conservation groups clearing them, so join one of these efforts and take the food away with you afterwards.

Another area you may need to check the law is psychoactive plants like magic mushrooms - I don't risk these but if you're going to try them, first make sure you can identify them for absolutely certain and are extremely careful with the weight and dosage etc, and check the laws governing them in your area. They often fall into a weird category where they're legal to forage, but illegal to prepare for human consumption.
Be very, very careful with these, because poisonous plants will sometimes also get you high - usually if you've picked the wrong plant by mistake and started feeling dizzy or nauseous, you'll call poison control or the emergency services straightaway, but if you're expecting to feel a bit fucked up then you might not recognise that you've been poisoned and delay getting treatment. I only mention them because they're a weird legal category and are a popular thing to forage, generally I say "don't but if you're going to anyway, be safe".

Plants for other uses than food is interesting, whether it's for laundry or getting wasted. Some plants coppice well and their saplings or switches can make "withies": basically cable ties but biodegradable, can be useful if you're camping. And you can weave them into baskets or use them as cooking utensils, shave the bark off and shape twigs into kebab skewers for your food. Horse hoof fungus can be used as kindling or to sharpen knives.
Lots of plants also make natural dyes that can give you quite bright colours and are better for the environment than chemical dyes.
And medicine and cosmetics, sphagnum moss was used in WW1 to dress wounds because it's very absorbent and has antiseptic properties, so it's a useful one to know. James Wong has a show called Grow Your Own Drugs where he focuses more on using plants for health and beauty, he uses a lot of wild plants in that.
 
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Dysnomia

Blood on the rise, it's following me
kiwifarms.net
It's really hard in the ghetto. Best I can get here are Dogwood berries, crabapples, henbit, smartweed and y
yewberries You aren't supposed to eat too many yewberries and the seed is poisonous. Although I ate the seed by accident once and nothing happened. But don't eat the seeds. The berry is sickening sweet though. You wouldn't want that many anyway.

Back when I lived in a better area there were a lot of wineberries.

I stay away from mushrooms. Not worth it at all because too many are poisonous and you can just buy cheap white mushrooms at the store. At least you know those aren't poisonous.

I just don't live in an area now where I can get much of anything. But where one of my doctor's is there is a tree with little apples that no one ever touches. No idea why. They are really good.
 

Yuna-Bomber

kiwifarms.net
It's really hard in the ghetto. Best I can get here are Dogwood berries, crabapples, henbit, smartweed and y
yewberries You aren't supposed to eat too many yewberries and the seed is poisonous. Although I ate the seed by accident once and nothing happened. But don't eat the seeds. The berry is sickening sweet though. You wouldn't want that many anyway.
That it is. And there's heavy metal contamination to worry about too. In urban areas you can look at popular street trees if they're in your area. Linden tree has flowers to make tea, some use the tea to relieve anxiety and help you sleep. Mulberries are often planted as street trees. There's gingko, you harvest the nut, the fruit smells terrible.

Crabapples make a good jelly. And I've noticed too that no one picks feral/wild apple trees. I make apple butter, cider, pie filling with them.

Have you searched for autumn olive? They are invasive and easily found. Their berries make a good juice/jam/fruit leather.
 

Hongourable Madisha

Happy Hongukkah
kiwifarms.net
Crabapples make good tanghulu and toffee apples too, they're not as big or as sweet as a normal eating apple, so they aren't overly sweet or heavy but make a nice treat. You can put them in pretty much any jam or jelly to help set it too, they have lots of pectin. I cook them together with rowan berries and sloes to make jelly.
They also make decent applesauce, it's a bit more sour than sweet applesauce (unless you add sugar of course) and you get something more like Dutch appelmoes: it goes well with chicken, game, pork, leek, onion, cabbage. Or you can mix it with mashed potatoes to make bliksem, or mix with mashed potatoes and leafy greens (maybe foraged greens) to make stamppot. Really good with bacon or sausages. My oma used to make a nice spiced apple, onion and red cabbage stew to go with turkey at Christmas time - it was like sprouts and cranberry sauce all in one - and crabapples work well in that.
 
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